Monday, November 18, 2013

Arne Duncan: Sorry for 'White suburban moms' remark

This is not helping the cause.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, not known for his timidity, defended the Common Core state standards to a gathering of state school superintendents last week by attacking a previously unknown enemy: suburban moms.

Duncan, speaking in Richmond on Friday, told the superintendents that he found it "fascinating" that the opposition to Common Core included "white suburban moms who - all of a sudden - their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were."


Update: 4:39 p.m.: Duncan apologized to CNN moments ago. "My wording, my phrasing, was a little clumsy, and I apologize for that," he said. That came after a day in which media coverage and backlash over the remarks intensified. According the Associated Press: "American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said Duncan "really doesn't get it." Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, tweeted that Duncan "should be fired for dismissing #CommonCore critics as just white suburban moms with dumb kids."

Some quick background: The Common Core standards have been going through a bit of a rough patch lately. After officials in 48 states agreed on developing consistent, demanding math and reading standards for their students, a few states have hit the pause button, and others are wondering if they should back off their commitment.

Adding to the vulnerability: Several states, including North Carolina, are unveiling their first batch of results on standardized testing linked to the Core. The results have been jarring everywhere. In North Carolina, only 34 percent of eighth graders are proficient in math, with only 41 percent meeting reading standards.

The scores also revealed an achievement gap even starker than most imagined, with stunningly small percentages of low-income students scoring well across the country. Middle- and high-income students also are experiencing a drop in scores - albeit smaller. As you might expect, no one is happy to be surprised with a poor test score, especially when you thought your child and his/her school was doing just fine.

So there's a grain of truth in what Duncan said. He just didn't need to say it so acidly.

Duncan and Common Core's advocates already have to deal with opposition from conservatives who despise everything that the Obama administration touches. He has to fight the silly claims about a federal takeover of education, and the sillier claims about the Core being a vehicle for feds to collect data on students and their families.   

Some teachers also are unhappy with the lack of preparation and training they've been given in transitioning their classrooms to the new standards. But most threatening, perhaps, is the budding argument that the Core is just another education fad - and one that adds more testing to already burdened classrooms.

That's the kind of argument that suburban moms - and dads - can latch onto. The argument they need to hear is that the low scores they might be seeing are ultimately a good thing. They're showing how much better our schools need to be.

Duncan said that, too, on Friday. And he acknowledged that parents have been rattled. "You've bet your house and where you live and everything on 'My child's going to be prepared.' That can be a punch in the gut."

Yes. They didn't need a verbal kick in the teeth, too.

Peter St. Onge


CharlotteAppraiser said...

This administration is just full of race-baiters.

Willy Loman said...

Nice statement from a leader. Are we to take his comments that all of a sudden the white, suburban moms care their kids and about the status of public education; while the black, urban moms are simply continuing to not care about our kids pitiful results?

Tsao Nima said...

Oh, and Duncan had NOTHING to say about black performance?

At the BOTTOM again, as usual?

Where "all of a sudden" THEIR children are EVEN WORSE than they thought they were.

How'd THAT go down in the urban black "community"?

Probably not even a blink?

Well, I guess we'll just have to see how the "white suburban mom" handles this little "setback" of STILL being at THE TOP.

So why all the gloating from the poverty pushers?

I guess stickin' it to The Man is what government is all about today.

But BIG GOVERNMENT forgets one thing.

Suburbia is a lot smarter than they think we are.

Anonymous said...

>> He has to fight the silly claims about a federal takeover of education...

Why is the claim silly since the states are only left to execute a cirriculum instead of deciding one? After seeing the results of fed govt.'s stimulus and now healthcare, I would think we all would have had our fill of DC's wisdom.

annnort said...

Duncan is not FIT to be an "educator." He does not even have a masters degree in education! He is just another fraud from Chicago who is part of this tyrannical administration. Get rid of them all.

Tandemfusion said...

I don't suppose that he sees the irony in his own assumption that regarding the education of THEIR children/he is bright enough and good enough to second guess those same parents he denigrates.

Pamela Grundy said...

What Arne Duncan seemingly fails to recognize is that much of the opposition to the current incarnation of Common Core has nothing to do with concerns about higher standards or individual student test scores and everything to do with the damage done to schools, teachers and children by the rushed, heavy-handed, test-and-punish approach that his department has taken to Common Core implementation. As background, I recommend the insightful column: "Are School Reformers Wrecking the Common Core?"

Wiley Coyote said...

Easy to explain.

45 years of educrat and bureaucrat diversity driven at all cost programs that have failed miserably.

You either know the subjectmatter or you don't.

Only now is it "okay" to talk about the decades old failures in public education without the PC Police branding you a racist.

Truth hurts doesn't it?

Tsao Nima said...

This is what happens when equality becomes official dogma.

So when some people keep underperforming, it can't be THEIR FAULT, so it must be everyone else's.

So everyone else pays.

And the schools end up overregulated just to try to bring the bottom-feeders into the fold.

But it never happens.

Because that horse is more likely to drown than drink water.

CharlotteObserver said...

So Pam Grundy you are a champion for Common Core?

Folks if one bridge is 212 feet long and the other bridge is 324 feet long, which bridge is longer and why?

Just thought you would want to see a question from common core.

Pamela Grundy said...

Common Core is a curriculum. It isn't going to save American education, but it won't destroy it either. It's my understanding that some of the early material is particularly problematic, because it doesn't mesh with the ways that children develop at young ages, and thus needs to be revisited. But there's no question the associated testing is going to be an expensive nightmare that does not move education forward any more than the past decade of testing madness has.

Irwin Fletcher said...

Dear Peter, I'm disappointed in what appears to be a very narrow viewpoint on the Common Core.. I'm not a conspiracy theorist at all, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the State department of educations (collectively) have taken another initiative and wrecked it. Common core itself can be made to bend to whatever crazy person, district, or state wants it to. That is part of the beauty, and challenge of the common core.. It doesn't script what to teach, how to teach it, that part is left up to the teachers - or in this train wreck - the state depts of education and school districts. I would LOVE to see how private schools take on the common core, with a healthy dose of common sense, and show the public education system how it could and should work.

It's not the be all end all, but throwing anyone under the bus who disagrees with it isn't fair. If you don't have options, other than take what the public schools give, then I would help lead the charge against the common core. Not because the standards themselves are evil, but the people who make the decisions on how to interpret the standards are generally idiots.

You usually do a great of reporting and I hope you dig in a little deeper next time.

Irwin Fletcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamash said...

One of the big problems you have with Common Core and other "standards" is that a high "standard" does not necessarily guarantee a high result.

Someone still has to teach and someone still has to learn, no matter what the standard says.

Of course, higher standards are still nice, but it's how you get there that really counts.

And students are still given tests and have to do well on those tests to show what they have learned.

I can show you a report in which the "standards" of two states, Texas and Tennessee, are rated HIGHER than Common Core (when only 6 states in total - Texas, Tennessee, California, DC, Indiana, and Massachusetts were rated "higher").


And, yet, if you check the NAEP scores of Tennessee and California, you will find that they SCORE well BELOW average.

I suspect that if you implemented Common Core "standards" in Finland or Singapore, they'd still do better than the US.

misswhit said...

Pete, In your opening paragraph you say Arne Duncan attacked a "previously unknown enemy": suburban moms. But in reality that "enemy" was not unknown to Observer editors in the late 1990's and early 2000's. During the court case to end race based assignment and its aftermath Observer editors, columnists, and reporters routinely treated suburbanites (both moms and dads) as "the enemy". Suburbanites who disagreed with busing and its continual churn were labeled racist, elitist, selfish, etc. Even suburban students who protested being reassigned away from their friends were fair game for ridicule. I believe much of the urban/suburban distrust that exists today can be traced to the attitude fostered during that time period. (I know Pete, you weren't here then and you live in the 'burbs, but I suspect that the editorial board still harbors more than a little disdain for Charlotte's suburban residents.)
Arne Duncan's comments reflect that same attitude and elicit the same anger and distrust.

Tsao Nima said...

Ah, this is just more of the same ol' "elite" bashing that's been going on for decades.

Only instead of attacking the top 1%, they're attaching the 50% who are above average.

If you're above "the gap", then you're the enemy of equality.

And you must be taken down a notch at every chance they get.

Until everyone is equal as designed.